Clinical trials are changing the way the world looks at medicine - and creating innovative techniques to help find treatments to rare and debilitating diseases. However, there are a number of issues holding the industry back from achieving good science and better medicine. One of the leading issues happens to be the lack of patient diversity within clinical trials.
Unfortunately, there is currently a massive underrepresentation of patients in the African-American, Hispanic-American, and Asian-American populations within the United States enrolled in clinical trials. A recent article from ProPublica found that African-American patients made up less than 5 percent of the total population of trial participants in 24 of the 31 cancer drugs approved by the FDA since 2015.
Recruiting patients and keeping them enrolled in clinical trials is a widespread challenge in the industry, but the under-representation of a more diverse population in trials is a major issue, as it can lead to a lack of scope into how the drug may work for different genetic pools. A study on genomic analysis conducted by the University of California Davis shined a light on how a more diverse trial population could have shown researchers early on that the anti-asthma drug albuterol does not work as well for African-American and Puerto Rican children as it does for European American or Mexican children.
While there are a number of reasons why there’s a gap in the diversity of patients in clinical trials, such as providers not offering their patient population the option to participate in research, the fear of rising insurance costs, distrust or perceived risk of participating in trials, and lack of accessibility to trial sites - what is necessary for change is for researchers to explore ways to design trials more inclusively and utilize technology available to them to help support this cause.
So how does one go about accomplishing this? One increasingly popular trend for clinical trial strategy is the notion of virtual trials.
How Virtual Trials Will Help Increase Diversity
The idea of the virtual or ‘siteless’ clinical trial is a concept that has been discussed ad nauseam throughout the industry for years but is finally being realized as a competitively differentiated offering for patients and study teams.
Virtual trials include the very best use of technology with items such as wearable devices to monitor the health of patients and derive real-world data for greater analysis into the effectiveness of drugs, as well as software platforms to increase engagement and collaboration for greater levels of patient retention.
For increasing the inclusion of a more diverse population, the impact virtual trials can have is immeasurable. One of the most common barriers of enrolling in a clinical trial for all patients is the lack of accessibility to the study trial site. On average, patients live two hours from the study site of the trial. For someone who is considering joining a clinical trial the logistical burden of traveling for each visit, which can sometimes be multiple times per week, is an instant disqualifier.
With the help of virtual trials, this burden is lifted and instantly increases access to a much broader population of patients. Patients can check-in virtually with their study team representatives through the use of telehealth solutions, regularly engage important clinical team players through intuitive patient portals, and even simplify the recording and collection of trial data through easy-to-use tools such as an eDiary to document how patients feel on a day to day basis.
Additionally, virtual trials allow providers to engage patients more easily through the use of smartphone applications. Patients need to be engaged where it is most convenient for them, and oftentimes, that will be through the use of the all too convenient smartphone that has permeated society.
To ensure study teams can reach patients, one innovative technique that can be leveraged is to supply patients with a smartphone or tablet rather than rely on the patient to download the app themselves, increasing accessibility overall for the patient.
At eCare Vault, we’re focused on increasing access between patients and providers through a powerful, intuitive, and easy-to-navigate patient-centric portal. Our platform fosters open communication and collaboration between patients, research assistants, the study site, as well as the patient's trusted community providers - all in one HIPAA-compliant location. Want to see how we do it? Check out our brief mobile-app demo, or better yet, through a personalized discovery call today.